You can see most of Skagway on foot, and everything by bike. Many companies also offer car, van, or bus tours, too. No one goes to greater lengths to give visitors a unique experience than the Skagway Street Car Company (tel. 907/983-2908; www.skagwaystreetcar.com), which uses antique touring vehicles and costumed guides performing "theater without walls." The amusing, historical 2-hour streetcar tour, based on a tour originally given to President Harding in 1923, is $42 for adults and $21 for children 12 and under. Book the tour at least 2 weeks in advance, as they're frequently sold out.
Touring the Historic Park
The main thing to do in Skagway is to see the old buildings and historic gold-rush places. Do it with the Skagway Walking Tour Map, or join a fascinating National Park Service guided walking tour.
Start with a visit to the museum at the National Park Service Visitor Center in the building next door. It helps put everything else in context. Of greatest interest is a collection of food and gear similar to the ton of supplies each prospector was required to carry over the pass in order to gain entry into Canada, a requirement that prevented famine among the stampeders but made the job of getting to Dawson City an epic struggle.
While they prepared to go over the pass, gold-rush greenhorns spent their time in Skagway drinking and getting fleeced in the many gambling dens and brothels. Law didn't mean much in the town's heyday with the lack of civil authority. It's hard to picture at times, because everything looks so orderly now, but the Park Service has tried. For example, the Mascot Saloon, at Broadway and 3rd Avenue, has mannequins bellying up to the bar. It's open daily from 8am to 6pm; admission is free.
The Park Service walking tour ends at the Moore House, near 5th Avenue and Spring Street, open from 10am to 5pm during the summer. Ten years before the gold rush happened, Capt. William Moore brilliantly predicted it and homesteaded the land that would become Skagway. A block east, on 6th Avenue, is Mollie Walsh Park, with a good children's play area, public restrooms, and phones. A sign tells the sad story of one of Skagway's first respectable women, a lady who chose to marry the wrong man among two suitors and was killed by him in a drunken rage. The other suitor -- who'd previously killed another rival for her affections -- commissioned the bust of Walsh that stands at the park.
The Gold Rush Cemetery is 1 1/2 miles from town, up State Street. Used until 1908, it's small and overgrown with spruce trees, but some of the charm and mystery of the place is lost because of the number of visitors and the shiny new paint and maintenance of the wooden markers. The graves of Soapy Smith and Frank Reid are the big attractions, but don't miss the short walk up to Reid Falls. About 10 miles northwest of Skagway is the ghost town of Dyea, where stampeders started climbing the Chilkoot Trail. It's a lovely coastal drive or bike ride: From Skagway, go 2 miles up Klondike Hwy. 2 and then turn left, continuing 8 miles on gravel road. Little remains in Dyea other than boards, broken dock pilings, a single false front, and miscellaneous iron debris. On a sunny day, however, the protected historical site is the perfect place for a picnic, among beach grasses, fields of wild iris, and the occasional reminder that a city once stood here. The National Park Service leads an interesting guided history and nature walk here daily in summer at 10am and 2pm; check at the visitor center.
The little-visited Slide Cemetery, in the woods near Dyea, is the last resting place of many of nearly 100 who died in an avalanche on the Chilkoot Trail on Palm Sunday, April 3, 1898. No one knows how many are here, exactly who died, or how accurate the wooden markers are. In 1960, when the state reopened the Chilkoot Trail, the cemetery had been completely overgrown and the markers were replaced. The mystery makes it an even more ghostly place, and the sense of anonymous, hopeless hardship and death it conveys is as authentic a gold-rush souvenir as anything in Skagway.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.